Ranking the Most Overhyped College Football Players Since 2000

Greg WallaceFeatured ColumnistJune 30, 2017

Ranking the Most Overhyped College Football Players Since 2000

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    Jimmy Clausen had big goals at Notre Dame that never reached fruition.
    Jimmy Clausen had big goals at Notre Dame that never reached fruition.Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    For many college football fans, the first Wednesday of February is a high holiday. That's the first day that recruits can officially sign national letters of intent with their programs of choice, which leaves fans either thrilled or disgusted (or somewhere in between) about their new recruiting classes. They obsess over the 4- and 5-star recruits and ignore the lesser ones, sure that the most talented players will lead their team to the promised land.

    Sometimes it works that way. Other times, not so much. Many players live up to their star ratings but others fail to meet potential for a variety of reasons. In other words, they're labeled as overhyped. These are players who were rated as one of the top 50 players (and in many cases, even higher) in their respective classes by Scout.com and gained attention with high-profile recruitments and flashed significant skills in high school.

    But they never met that potential in college. Here's a look at the most overhyped college football players since 2000.

10. WR Fred Rouse

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    Personal issues kept Fred Rouse from capitalizing on big-time wide receiver talent.
    Personal issues kept Fred Rouse from capitalizing on big-time wide receiver talent.David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    What was expected

    Fred Rouse entered Florida State with tremendous potential. The Tallahassee native was a prototypical outside receiver. He stood 6'3", 187 pounds and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds and was a sprint standout. He was a Parade All-American, and starring for his hometown Seminoles seemed like a slam dunk. He was the No. 6 overall player in the class of 2005, per Scout.com.

          

    What was delivered

    Rouse played in 11 games as a Florida State freshman and didn't have a huge impact, making six catches for 114 yards and a touchdown while also returning 11 punts for 97 yards and six kickoffs for 107 yards. He was dismissed from FSU after one season for failed drug tests and wound up at UTEP. Following a transfer season in 2006, he had 25 catches for 379 yards and two touchdowns for the Miners but left following the season, landing at NAIA Concordia College after a stint in jail for a probation violation connected to a break-in following his FSU stint. He never played in the NFL.

          

    Why he's here

    Rouse had a very high ceiling but never lived up to it due to personal and other issues. It's disappointing, because he could have done great things with the Seminoles if he had been able to get out of his own way.

9. WR Vidal Hazelton

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    Vidal Hazelton had one good season at USC but couldn't carry over his success.
    Vidal Hazelton had one good season at USC but couldn't carry over his success.Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    What was expected

    Vidal Hazelton was one of the most dynamic players and receivers in the class of 2006. As a senior at Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia, he had 41 catches for 942 yards and 13 touchdowns and was rated as the nation's No. 5 overall player by Scout.com and the top receiving prospect of 2006. The 6'2", 200-pounder was heavily recruited and decided Southern California was the place to showcase his speed and receiving ability. Hazelton was expected to be an early contributor.

          

    What was delivered

    Hazelton spent his freshman season as a reserve, making one catch for eight yards. He broke out as a sophomore, making 50 catches for 540 yards and four touchdowns. But he couldn't build on that success as a junior, making just six catches for 38 yards as a deep reserve.

    He transferred to Cincinnati but found little more success there, making six catches for 63 yards and no touchdowns as a senior. It was a rather quiet end to a college career that began with so much promise.

         

    Why he's here

    While Hazelton had a very solid sophomore season at Southern California, it turned out to be a flash in the pan. One of the nation's most talented receivers never really translated potential into on-field production, making him far more a product of hype than actual success.

8. QB Gunner Kiel

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    Gunner Kiel went from being a top recruit to a backup for Cincinnati.
    Gunner Kiel went from being a top recruit to a backup for Cincinnati.John Minchillo/Associated Press

    What was expected

    Gunner Kiel has a great name, and he made a name for himself long before arriving at his collegiate destination. Kiel originally committed to Indiana and LSU, but decommitted from both and wound up at Notre Dame in January 2012. The 6'4", 210-pound prospect was rated as the No. 38 overall prospect and the top quarterback in the class of 2012 by Scout.com.

          

    What was delivered

    Kiel spent his first season as a redshirt at Notre Dame before deciding that wasn't the right situation for him either. He landed at Cincinnati with coach Tommy Tuberville. He had an excellent sophomore season, throwing six touchdowns in his college debut against Toledo and tossing 31 touchdowns against 13 interceptions overall with 3,254 yards. His numbers slipped in 2015: 2,777 yards with 19 touchdowns against 11 interceptions.

    Before his senior season, Tuberville benched him in favor of younger players. However, Kiel still found a little playing time, throwing six touchdowns against two interceptions and throwing for 804 yards.

         

    Why he's here

    Kiel began his career with big expectations and got off to a strong start with Cincinnati. So it had to have been a letdown to finish his career as a backup quarterback for a losing Bearcat team. Kiel attracted plenty of attention but finished his college career well out of the spotlight. It couldn't have been what he hoped for when he signed with the Fighting Irish.

7. QB Russell Shepard

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    Russell Shepard never quite found his niche at LSU.
    Russell Shepard never quite found his niche at LSU.Bill Haber/Associated Press

    What was expected

    Talent was never a question with Russell Shepard. Finding the right way to use it was. Shepard had dual- or triple-threat potential in college following a stellar career at Cypress Ridge High School in Texas. He rolled up nearly 4,000 yards of total offense and 48 touchdowns as a senior and was rated the No. 4 overall player by Scout.com. He could have played as a wide receiver or running back in college but chose LSU for the opportunity to play quarterback.

         

    What was delivered

    Shepard never found a true home at LSU. He played 90 snaps as a freshman in 2009, with 40 at tailback, 28 at quarterback and 22 at wide receiver. He finished with 277 rushing yards and three touchdowns. As a sophomore, he had nine starts, but none at quarterback. He had 33 receptions for 254 yards and one touchdown while catching a pass in 12 of 13 games, and added 226 yards and two scores on the ground.

    As a junior, he caught 14 passes for 190 yards and four touchdowns, and then saw his playing time slip as a senior, starting one game and catching six passes for 92 yards while rushing 20 times for 161 yards and a score.

          

    Why he’s here

    Shepard is clearly talented and has carved out an NFL career as a receiver, but LSU never seemed to know quite what his best fit was. In fact, his contributions declined in his junior and senior seasons. That could be on LSU's staff, but given what Shepard was capable of, it's a disappointment for all sides.

6. QB Ryan Perrilloux

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    Ryan Perrilloux had his moments but never found his footing at LSU.
    Ryan Perrilloux had his moments but never found his footing at LSU.Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

    What was expected

    While at LSU, one of Les Miles' biggest failings as a head coach was finding a consistent starting quarterback. Ryan Perrilloux was supposed to be the guy who changed that perception. 

    The dual-threat passer and Reserve, Louisiana, native put together an impressive prep career, accounting for 12,705 yards of total offense at East St. John High School. He put up 5,006 yards of total offense as a senior and was considered one of the nation's top overall recruits. Scout.com rated him as the No. 2 overall recruit in 2005, behind only fellow quarterback Mark Sanchez.

    He was originally committed to Texas, but the Parade All-American flipped to LSU on national signing day 2005, only upping the ante for his college career in his home state.

          

    What was delivered

    Perrilloux never quite found his footing at LSU. He redshirted as a freshman, then completed only one pass as the third-string quarterback in 2006. Despite an arrest for attempted underage gambling on a Baton Rouge casino boat, he worked his way into Miles' better graces in 2007 and made two starts, including in the SEC Championship Game, defeating Tennessee and leading LSU to a spot in the BCS National Championship Game (where they would defeat Oklahoma).

    He was kicked off the team in May 2008 for violation of team rules and transferred to FCS Jacksonville State, where he played his final two seasons, winning Ohio Valley Conference Offensive Player of the Year honors as a senior.

        

    Why he's here

    Although he entered LSU with huge expectations, Perrilloux never lived up to them, despite showing flashes of brilliance. Off-the-field issues likely kept him from fulfilling his potential and showing what he truly could have become under Miles' watch.

5. QB Christian Hackenberg

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    Christian Hackenberg never lived up to initial promise at Penn State.
    Christian Hackenberg never lived up to initial promise at Penn State.Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    What was promised

    Christian Hackenberg entered Penn State with significant promise. A program still reeling and recovering from the Jerry Sandusky scandal needed a star, and Hackenberg was it. He stood 6'4", 205 pounds and ranked as the No. 2 quarterback and No. 33 overall player in Scout's class of 2013.

    Hackenberg was a polished pro-style quarterback who seemed like a perfect fit for Penn State and coach Bill O’Brien's system, and he was ready to play right away as a true freshman.

         

    What was delivered

    Hackenberg stepped in immediately as Penn State's starter and thrived, throwing for 2,955 yards with 20 touchdowns against 10 interceptions. But O'Brien bolted for the NFL's Houston Texans following the season and was replaced by Vanderbilt's James Franklin.

    The new system didn't seem to mesh with Hackenberg. He struggled behind a porous offensive line and threw for just 12 touchdowns against 15 interceptions as a sophomore and then 16 scores against six interceptions as a junior, with his completion percentage declining from 58.9 percent as a freshman to 53.3 percent as a junior.

    He declared for the NFL draft following the season and was a second-round selection of the New York Jets. It was a disappointing but not necessarily surprising ending to his college tenure.

         

    Why he's here

    Much was expected of Hackenberg, and after a strong freshman year, he appeared to be on pace to bring Penn State back to prominence. But a new offense hindered his progress, and the Nittany Lions went 14-12 in his final two seasons. His career was a case of what might have been, especially after the Lions won a Big Ten title one year after he left the program with a new more wide-open offense.

4. QB Mitch Mustain

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    Mitch Mustain had huge potential but never lived up to it with Arkansas and USC.
    Mitch Mustain had huge potential but never lived up to it with Arkansas and USC.Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    What was expected

    For Arkansas fans, Mitch Mustain was a classic case of a local boy made good. The Springdale, Arkansas, native grew up just miles from campus, excelling under coach Gus Malzahn, who was hired by Houston Nutt following Mustain's senior season as the Razorbacks' new offensive coordinator. Mustain was the nation's top quarterback recruit, a 5-star prospect and the No. 10 overall player in the class of 2006 by Scout.com, and the national player of the year, according to Gatorade, Parade and USA Today.

    As a senior, he threw for 3,817 yards and 47 touchdowns in an offense run by his college offensive coordinator. In short, expectations were rather high for Mustain in Fayetteville right from the start of his career.

          

    What was delivered

    Mustain actually got off to a good start at Arkansas. He relieved starter Robert Johnson in a 50-14 season-opening loss to Southern California and won his next eight games. However, Nutt pulled him after one series of a win over South Carolina in favor of backup Casey Dick, and Mustain didn't start in the final five games of the season. He finished with 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions and transferred following the season to Southern California.

    With the Trojans, Mustain never fulfilled his potential. He served as a backup to Mark Sanchez and Matt Barkley for three seasons, starting one game (a loss) against Notre Dame. He played in the CFL and Arena Football League but never played in the NFL.

         

    Why he's here

    Mustain got plenty of attention at Arkansas, especially after his strong start as a true freshman. But he never recaptured the magic, even after a high-profile transfer to USC that, looking back, ultimately was the beginning of the end for Nutt at Arkansas. He's a cautionary tale of too much, too soon for young quarterbacks.

3. RB Bryce Brown

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    Bryce Brown will be a case of "what might have been" for Tennessee football.
    Bryce Brown will be a case of "what might have been" for Tennessee football.Wade Payne/Associated Press

    What was expected

    Bryce Brown was no stranger to attention when he finally arrived at Tennessee. The Wichita, Kansas, running back and his family drummed up plenty for themselves. During his recruitment, a family friend, Brian Butler, sold updates on Brown's college choices for $9.99 per month or $59 per year, an arrangement that attracted NCAA attention. He initially committed to Miami but backed off and waited until after most recruits had signed to sign with Tennessee in March 2009.

    Brown was rated as the top player in the class of 2009 by Scout.com and finished his high school career with 7,209 rushing yards. In short, he was a prime candidate to play early and excel with the Volunteers.

         

    What was delivered

    Brown had a solid, not spectacular debut on Rocky Top. He spent 2009 backing up Montario Hardesty and rushed for 460 yards and three touchdowns. However, after the season, coach Lane Kiffin, who had signed Brown, left abruptly for Southern California. Brown bolted shortly afterward, following brother Arthur to Kansas State. He spent a season sitting out as a transfer but left the Wildcats in September 2011, less than a month into his first on-field season with the Wildcats. He declared for the NFL draft and spent parts of four seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, Buffalo Bills and Seattle Seahawks; he did not play in the league in 2016.

            

    Why he's here

    Given the excitement surrounding his recruitment and overall talent, Brown's failure to capitalize puts him very near the top of this list. Brown was a talented player but was dogged by off-field concerns and never made the most of his opportunities in college football.

2. QB Jimmy Clausen

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    Jimmy Clausen set a high bar at Notre Dame and never came close to clearing it.
    Jimmy Clausen set a high bar at Notre Dame and never came close to clearing it.Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    What was expected

    Jimmy Clausen set the bar at Notre Dame plenty high all by himself. When Clausen, the brother of fellow FBS quarterbacks Casey and Rick Clausen, committed to the Fighting Irish, he did so in style. Clausen arrived at the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, Indiana, in a stretch Hummer limo, flashing high school championship rings and proclaimed that he hoped to "try to get four national championship rings on our fingers," per Avani Patel of the Chicago Tribune. 

    Clausen went 42-0 at Oaks Christian High School in California and was named USA Today’s Offensive Player of the Year as a senior and was also profiled in Sports Illustrated. He was rated by Scout.com as the nation's No. 4 overall prospect in the class of 2007.

         

    What was delivered

    Clausen was the starter by the second game of his freshman season but struggled as part of a 3-9 team, winning just one of his first six starts and getting benched in late October. He threw for 1,254 yards with seven touchdowns against six interceptions. As a sophomore, he threw for 3,172 yards with 25 touchdowns against 17 interceptions for a 7-6 Fighting Irish team.

    He was better as a junior, throwing for 3,722 yards with 28 touchdowns against four interceptions. But the Irish went 6-6, and head coach Charlie Weis was fired.

    In three seasons, Clausen had one winning season, one bowl win and no Heisman Trophy or national championships. He declared for the NFL draft following the season, ending a mediocre college career.

         

    Why he's here

    Few on this list have promised so much but delivered so little. Clausen entered Notre Dame with huge hype, and while it wasn't all his fault, he didn't deliver on it. When you roll into your commitment press conference in a stretch limo, there's automatically pressure on you to live up to your reputation. Clausen didn't do so.

1. LB Willie Williams

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    Willie Williams is a cautionary tale for college athletes.
    Willie Williams is a cautionary tale for college athletes.LOU TOMAN/Associated Press

    What was expected

    Willie Williams was the epitome of recruiting excess. The Miami native rose to fame not necessarily because of his on-field exploits but rather through a diary of his recruiting trips that he partnered on with the Miami Herald. He discussed eating lobster and steak, meeting Bobby Bowden's wife, refusing spinach dip at Auburn because "I ain't no animal, and I don't eat no plant" and, of course, partying on South Beach with NFL players at Miami.

    He was rated the nation's No. 2 overall player in the class of 2004 by Scout.com, right ahead of future NFL standouts Adrian Peterson and Ted Ginn Jr. When he signed with the Hurricanes, it wouldn't have been surprising to see the linebacker emerge as the next great Miami defender.

         

    What was delivered

    As Bleacher Report's Jeff Pearlman reported in his excellent feature on Williams, he was hit with three charges following his recruiting visit to Florida (including a felony) and was placed on three years of probation before being admitted into Miami. He redshirted his freshman year after suffering a knee injury and made 36 tackles as a redshirt freshman, frustrating coaches with his freelancing ways before transferring to Pearl River Community College in Mississippi and West Los Angeles Community College before receiving one last chance at Louisville.

    He played three games at Louisville before being kicked off the team following an arrest for marijuana possession, finishing his career at NAIA Union College. In 2011, he was arrested in Kentucky on burglary charges and is currently serving a 15-year prison sentence following his conviction.

         

    Why he's here

    Williams captured college fans' fancy by giving them an inside look at the recruiting process and teased Miami and Louisville fans with his potential. But his fall from grace is a true cautionary tale about putting recruits on a pedestal, no matter how interesting they are.